India’s most populous state bans deadly gutka chewing tobacco  

April 05, 2013

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Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with more than 200 million residents, has become the country’s latest state to begin implementing the ban on the sale of gutka, a deadly form of chewing tobacco that is fueling an oral cancer epidemic. This action follows the Supreme Court’s denial of a tobacco industry petition to stay implementation of the ban.

Altogether, 23 of India’s 28 states and five of seven union territories have now joined the fast-growing movement to ban gutka.  It represents significant progress to reduce the nearly one million deaths caused by tobacco use in India each year.

Adding to the momentum, the Indian Supreme Court this week directed the remaining states and territories to implement the gutka ban and to explain why they had not yet complied with previous court orders and national regulations requiring implementation.  The high court also directed the states and territories that had already passed orders to implement the ban to file reports on implementation efforts, an important step to ensure the bans are enforced.

A mix of tobacco flavored with spices and sweeteners, gutka is sold in cheap, colorful packets and is the main reason why India has come to be known as the oral cancer capital of the world. The country has 86 percent of the world’s oral cancer cases and faces nearly 80,000 new cases each year.

Though successful implementation remains key to curbing India’s tobacco epidemic, the gutka bans now protect more than 975 million Indians from this deadly product, comprising approximately 80 percent of the country’s population.

The campaign to ban gutka and reduce tobacco’s deadly toll in India has been led by Voice of Tobacco Victims, a movement that has mobilized cancer patients and their doctors across the country.  They have made tobacco victims, especially oral cancer sufferers, the face of the fight against tobacco in India.